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Be your own croquis

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

In 2021, my biggest goal is to design pieces I adore wearing. I’m imagining getting dressed, pulling open my drawer of sweaters, and feeling like I’m choosing a favorite child because I have so many amazing options. I most often reach for layering cardigans in various weights and tunic-length sweaters with plenty of ease in the torso - so that’s what’s on deck for this year!

Sweater knitting shines when you’re creating pieces that make you feel terrific and that fit into your wardrobe. There are great tools for planning and scheduling your makes, but how much time do you invest in planning an individual piece before you add a sweater to your lineup?

Designing has transformed my knitting, starting with how I plan a project. One of my design tools is a fashion croquis - a line drawing of the human figure. I can move quickly through several ideas by sketching over these templates or refine an element like a neckline, for example, by trying out several different sketches side by side.

A pencil sketch of three sweaters, with a ruler and pencil laying on the sketchbook.
Quick - try three different necklines and hems!

Once I narrow down my design, I switch to pictures of real people, often from brands or people I follow that have a similar style. I find suitable poses, put a piece of sketch paper on top of my laptop screen, turn the poor thing on its side, and get tracing. This makes the design more ‘real’ for me, and can help me see where elements will look best on a body in different poses.

What would Lydia wear? (more about Lydia below)

Adding these tools to your own planning process can help you create your most-worn sweater yet!

Start with a line drawing croquis (I have some options below), and experiment with some of the following:

  1. Demo out different color combos - are you sure you like that orange stripe across the middle of the torso?

  2. Create a ‘paper doll’ situation where you recreate in paper some of your favorite staples, then layer your sweater over them.

  3. Between pattern sizes? Sketch out the garment with more and less ease to see which you like better.

  4. Considering a deeper neckline? Shorter hem? Try modifications in pencil first.

Once you think you’ve settled on your final project, create a photo tracing illustration to see how it resonates once you see it "on" your own body. Any photo of yourself where you can see your body contours and you look comfortable will work. Use your monitor as a lightbox and lightly trace your outline, then illustrate your planned sweater. You may be surprised by the final result, or you may just go into your project with extra confidence (and more motivation to finish quickly!).

This sneak peek is traced over my own outline.

If you try this, I’d love to see your illustrations! Tag me on IG at JP_Knits_Things, or just email me! Do you have anything special you do to plan a project before you get started?

Additional Resources:

Brooklyn Tweed has a downloadable set of croquis on their website here.

The My Body Model app will crunch your measurements and create a downloadable, personalized croquis for $29 - and you can preview it before you pay. They also have lots of great ideas about planning a wardrobe. Learn more here.

No matter what your size, Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer cover a lot of great material on choosing sweaters in their book Big Girl Knits. We all have favorite parts that we like to emphasize or have created a garment that looks a little unbalanced, and I love their concrete recommendations. The book is out of print, but I was able to find a very affordable used copy.

High on my to-do list for 2021 is to attend Jacqueline Cieslak’s class Capsule Wardrobe Workshop. You can learn more here.

Lydia Morrow, illustrated above, is a designer, artist, and model - you can check out her Instagram here. I traced this picture off her grid - it's a photograph by Otago Street Collective for Law Design Studio.

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